New Zealand Football Championship

The New Zealand Football Championship is a professional men's association football league at the top of the New Zealand league system. Founded in 2004, the New Zealand Football Championship was the successor to a myriad of short-lived football leagues in the country, including the National Soccer League, the National Summer Soccer League and the New Zealand Superclub League. The league is currently contested by ten teams in a franchise system. For sponsorship reasons, the competition is known as the ISPS Handa Premiership.

New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC)
CountryNew Zealand
Number of teams10
Level on pyramid1
Domestic cup(s)White Ribbon Cup
International cup(s)OFC Champions League
Current championsEastern Suburbs (1st title)
Current premiersAuckland City (10th title)
Most championshipsAuckland City (7 titles)
Most premiershipsAuckland City (10 titles)
Most appearancesJake Butler (232)
Top goalscorerEmiliano Tade (79 goals)
TV partnersSky Sports
WebsiteOfficial web page
2019–20 ISPS Handa Premiership

Seasons run from October through to April, and consist of an eighteen-round regular season followed by a playoff series involving the four highest-placed teams, culminating in a Grand Final. Each season, two clubs gain qualification to the OFC Champions League, the continental competition for the Oceania region. The league does not use a system of promotion and relegation, unlike most other world leagues.

Auckland City are the most successful side since the competition's inception, with seven titles. A youth competition, called the National Youth League, runs parallel to the regular season from October to December - the most recent champions are also Auckland City.

Competition format

There are two stages to the competition - the regular season, in which each team plays each other twice for a total of 18 games; and the playoffs, in which the top four teams in the league compete in order to determine the champion.[1]

The two teams that win the league phase (the "Minor Premier") and the Grand Final (the "champion") qualify for the OFC Champions League. Should the same team win both the Minor Premiership and the Championship, the second Champions League spot is granted to the league runner-up. This has occurred on numerous occasions; the first instance being in 2006 when Auckland City (premiers and champions) and YoungHeart Manawatu qualified despite Canterbury United contesting the Grand Final with Auckland.

No promotion and relegation exists, making it a closed league - similar to the A-League in Australia and Major League Soccer in the United States.

Regular season

For the first four seasons, regular season had the teams play each other three times, however, this was changed to the present home-and-away system in 2008, due to financial difficulties affecting some of the clubs. At the end of the regular season, the top four teams progress to the playoffs.


The playoffs are run as a home-and-away semi-finals series, with the winners progressing to a one-match Grand Final.

The playoff phase in the inaugural season was contested by the top three clubs, whereby the Minor Premier (winner of league phase) received a bye and hosting rights for the grand final, with second and third placed teams playing off in a one-game preliminary final. The NZFC experimented with a five team playoff in the 2005–06 season, however, this was discontinued and the league reverted to the three-team playoff system for the 2006–07 and 2007–08 seasons. The league changed to its current four-team playoff system in the 2009–10 season.


Establishment in 2004 to present

The New Zealand Football Championship was created as a replacement to the former New Zealand National Soccer League, a tournament involving clubs from the regional governing bodies of New Zealand Football. The NZFC was to be run as a summer league involving new clubs created solely for the new competition, with these new clubs being run jointly by existing winter clubs. The only exception to this was Napier City Rovers, whose summer club would be rebranded Hawke's Bay United during the second season, to be operated jointly by other clubs in the Hawke's Bay region.

Eleven groups bid for franchises, with the successful bids being announced on 7 April 2004 as Auckland City, Canterbury United, Napier City Rovers, Otago United, Team Wellington, Waikato FC, Waitakere United and YoungHeart Manawatu, with Olé Madrids, East Auckland and Team Bay of Plenty being excluded. Unhappy at their exclusion, the Olé Madrids bid team took New Zealand Soccer to court, suing for damages and demanding inclusion in the competition, claiming that, whilst they met NZ Soccer's criteria for inclusion, other successful bids did not. The case was dropped by the Madrids team eight days before the commencement of the first NZFC season.[2] The Olé Academy, previously having had a relationship with Team Wellington, currently holds an exclusive partnership with current league side Eastern Suburbs.[3][4] East Auckland also considered legal action, however this was not pursued.[5]

The first match of the competition was on 15 October 2004, with Auckland City defeating Napier City Rovers 3–1 at Park Island, Napier. Auckland City were also crowned the inaugural NZFC champions after defeating Waitakere United 3–2 in the final.

The second season saw Napier City Rovers rebrand and re-organize their NZFC team as Hawke's Bay United, forming an amalgamated franchise with other local clubs. It also saw the first instance of a NZFC team winning the O-League, with Auckland City FC defeating Tahitian team AS Pirae 3–1.

At the conclusion of the 2006–07 season, New Zealand Football granted three-season licence extensions to seven of the eight franchises – all but YoungHeart Manawatu, who had to re-apply due to concerns over the club's financial and organisational situation. However, YoungHeart eventually earned reinstatement after beating out four rival bids – one based in Gisborne, one from North Shore City, and two from Manukau. Olé Madrids also applied for the licence, however they withdrew early.[6]

On 2 September 2010, New Zealand Football announced a five-year sponsorship agreement with ASB Bank resulting in the rebranding of the New Zealand Football Championship to the ASB Premiership.[7]

In 2013, after a review of the competition by the ASB Premiership review committee, YoungHeart Manawatu was dropped from the competition after finishing last in the previous three seasons. New Zealand Football also confirmed that a team composed of New Zealand players born on or after 1 January 1995 would take Manawatu's place in the Premiership for at least two seasons. The addition of the team – to be known as Wanderers SC – was to provide adequate preparation for New Zealand's U-20 players for the upcoming 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup which will be hosted by New Zealand.[8] Much confusion surrounded the initials "SC" in the Wanderers' name, as no official explanation was given as to what they stood for. It wasn't until after their first match that coach Darren Bazeley finally revealed that "SC" stood for "Special Club", saying "it acknowledges this team has arisen out of a special situation and was specially formed for the purpose."[9]

The 2014–15 season saw the Premiership expand to nine teams for the first time in its history. Wellington Phoenix Reserves was added to the competition to provide game time for the members of the Phoenix squad who are not playing frequently for the first team in the A-League. Restrictions were also put in place for all clubs requiring that at least 50% of match day squads are players who are eligible to play for the All Whites.[10]

After 11 full seasons, only Auckland City and Waitakere United have been crowned Premiers or Champions, with Auckland City adding their sixth premiership and sixth title in the 2014–15 season. This trend was bucked, however, in the twelfth season of the competition, as Team Wellington defeated Auckland City 4–2 after extra time in the final.[11]. The 2018-19 saw Eastern Suburbs crowned as champions for the first time, becoming the first club to win the NZFC and the New Zealand National Soccer League.

2016 expansion

In December 2015 it was announced that the league would be expanding to 10 teams for the 2016–17 season with Eastern Suburbs from Auckland, Hamilton Wanderers from Hamilton, and Tasman United from Nelson joining the league, while WaiBop United will exit the competition.[12]


In September 2016, it was announced that the expanded league would be re-branded as the Stirling Sports Premiership.[13]

In March 2017, it was announced that the league would be re-branded as the ISPS Handa Premiership, due to a three-year sponsorship deal with ISPS Handa.[14]


There are currently ten clubs from New Zealand playing in the 2017–18 ISPS Handa Premiership. Unlike most European leagues, there is no system for promotion and relegation. This system is similar to leagues in Australia and in the United States.

Current clubs

Team City, Region Stadium Joined Head Coach
Auckland City Auckland, Auckland Kiwitea Street 2004 Ramon Tribulietx
Canterbury United Christchurch, Canterbury ASB Football Park 2004 Willy Gerdsen
Eastern Suburbs Auckland, Auckland Bill McKinlay Park 2016 Danny Hay
Hamilton Wanderers Hamilton, Waikato Porritt Stadium 2016 Ricki Herbert[15]
Hawke's Bay United Napier, Hawke's Bay Bluewater Stadium 2005 Brett Angell[16]
Southern United Dunedin, Otago Forsyth Barr Stadium 2004 Paul O'Reilly[17]
Tasman United Nelson, Nelson Trafalgar Park 2016 Andy Hedge
Team Wellington Wellington, Wellington David Farrington Park 2004 José Manuel Figueira
Waitakere United Whenuapai, Auckland Fred Taylor Park 2004 Chris Milicich[18]
Wellington Phoenix Reserves Wellington, Wellington Newtown Park 2014 Paul Temple

Former clubs

Team City, Region Joined Left
YoungHeart Manawatu Palmerston North, Manawatu-Wanganui 2004 2013
Wanderers SC North Harbour, Auckland 2013 2015
WaiBOP United Cambridge, Waikato 2004 2016

Name changes

Champions and premiers

Season Regular Season Grand Final
Premiers Points Runners-up Champions Score Runners-up
2004–05 Auckland City 46 – 40 Waitakere United Auckland City 3 – 2 Waitakere United
2005–06 Auckland City 48 – 46 YoungHeart Manawatu Auckland City 3 – 3 (a.e.t.)
4 – 3 (p.s.o)
Canterbury United
2006–07 Waitakere United 47 – 45 YoungHeart Manawatu Auckland City 3 – 2 Waitakere United
2007–08 Waitakere United 51 – 50 Auckland City Waitakere United 2 – 0 Team Wellington
2008–09 Waitakere United 33 – 25 Auckland City Auckland City 2 – 1 Waitakere United
2009–10 Auckland City 31 – 29 Waitakere United Waitakere United 3 – 1 Canterbury United
2010–11 Waitakere United 36 – 30 Auckland City Waitakere United 3 – 2 Auckland City
2011–12 Auckland City 36 – 29 Canterbury United Waitakere United 4 – 1 Team Wellington
2012–13 Waitakere United 37 – 33 Auckland City Waitakere United 4 – 3 (a.e.t.) Auckland City
2013–14 Auckland City 33 – 26 Team Wellington Auckland City 1 – 0 Team Wellington
2014–15 Auckland City 42 – 30 Team Wellington Auckland City 2 – 1 Hawke's Bay United
2015–16 Auckland City 38 – 30 Hawke's Bay United Team Wellington 4 – 2 (a.e.t.) Auckland City
2016–17 Auckland City 36 – 36 Team Wellington Team Wellington 2 – 1 Auckland City
2017–18 Auckland City 40 – 37 Team Wellington Auckland City 1 – 0 Team Wellington
2018–19 Auckland City 52 – 40 Eastern Suburbs Eastern Suburbs 3 – 0 Team Wellington

Premiership winners

Team Titles Runners-up Winning Years
Auckland City
2004–05, 2005–06, 2009–10, 2011–12, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18, 2018-19
Waitakere United
2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2012–13
Team Wellington FC
YoungHeart Manawatu
Canterbury United
Hawke's Bay United
Eastern Suburbs

Championship winners

Team Titles Runners-up Winning Years
Auckland City
2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2008–09, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2017–18
Waitakere United
2007–08, 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12, 2012–13
Team Wellington FC
2015–16, 2016–17
Eastern Suburbs
Canterbury United
Hawke's Bay United


Golden Boot

The Golden Boot is presented to the player who scores the most goals during the season.

Year Player Club Goals
2007–08 Graham Little Team Wellington 12
2008–09 Luis Corrales Team Wellington 12
2009–10 Seule Soromon YoungHeart Manawatu 9
2010–11 Allan Pearce Waitakere United 13
2011–12 George Slefendorfas Canterbury United 12
2012–13 Roy Krishna Waitakere United 12
2013–14 Emiliano Tade Auckland City 12
2014–15 Tyler Boyd
Tom Jackson
Sean Lovemore
Wellington Phoenix
Southern United
Hawke's Bay United
2015–16 Ryan De Vries Auckland City 15
2016–17 Tom Jackson Team Wellington 16
2017–18 Emiliano Tade Auckland City 16
Team of the Decade

In 2014, to celebrate the first 10 years of the league under the franchise format (2004–05 to 2013–14), New Zealand Football announced an official Team of the Decade and five individual player awards. [19][20]

Prior to the ASB Premiership Grand Final in 2014, the Team of the Decade was announced, as selected by a panel of media experts.[20] The team was selected in a 4–3–3 formation.

Position Player Club(s)
Goalkeeper Danny Robinson Waikato, Waitakere United
Defenders James Pritchett Auckland City
Ivan Vicelich Auckland City
Danny Hay Waitakere United
Ian Hogg Hawke's Bay United, Waitakere United, Auckland City
Midfielders Chris Bale Waitakere United, Team Wellington FC, Auckland City
Aaron Clapham Canterbury United
Albert Riera Auckland City
Strikers Keryn Jordan Waitakere United, Auckland City
Roy Krishna Waitakere United, Auckland City
Benjamin Totori YoungHeart Manawatu, Waitakere United
Substitutes Ross Nicholson (RGK) Auckland City, YoungHeart Manawatu
Ben Sigmund Canterbury United, Auckland City
Jake Butler Waitakere United
Allan Pearce Waitakere United
Grant Young Hawke's Bay United, Waitakere United, Auckland City
Coach Alan Jones Auckland City
Players of the Decade

Throughout the 2013–14 national league season, four Player of the Decade awards (based on playing position) were announced and prior to the 2014 Grand Final an overall Player of the Decade was announced. These awards were decided by a panel of media experts with input from fans via a public vote.[19]

Award Player Club(s)
Player of the Decade[20] Keryn Jordan Waitakere United, Auckland City
Goalkeeper of the Decade[21] Danny Robinson Waikato, Waitakere United
Defender of the Decade[22] Ivan Vicelich Auckland City
Midfielder of the Decade[23] Aaron Clapham Canterbury United
Striker of the Decade[24] Roy Krishna Waitakere United, Auckland City

Records and statistics

Regular season matches

As of December 2 2018

Club SP Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Auckland City152161523430543220+323490841-
Canterbury United14216873990352335+17300-126
Eastern Suburbs2189362825+330----
Hawke's Bay United¹14216843894369418−49290-123
Southern United²142164234140231498−267160----
Tasman United2184592942−1317----
Team Wellington142161073772460364+96358-342
WaiBOP United³121986128109272410−138211--1-
Waitakere United142161302858480275+2054185222
Wanderers SC23091206186−2528----
Wellington Phoenix4481282868101−3344----
YoungHeart Manawatu9154512578253344−91178-21-
¹ Includes record as Napier City Rovers
² Includes record as Otago United
³ Includes record as Waikato FC
Finals matches

As of the conclusion of the 2016–17 season

Club SP Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Avg. 1st 2nd 3rd
Auckland City132919196844+24582.000641
Waitakere United112413110645+12401.667532
Team Wellington1023112104350−7351.522232
Canterbury United6144281930−11141.000-23
Southern United²1101022011.000---
YoungHeart Manawatu35113610−440.800--2
Hawke's Bay United¹591081324−1130.333-12
WaiBOP United³1100114−300.000--1
¹ Includes record as Napier City Rovers
² Includes record as Otago United
³ Includes record as Waikato FC
Largest victories
Season Home team Result Away team Date
2013–14Southern United 0 – 10 Auckland City16 February 2013
2006–07Waitakere United 8 – 0 Southern United8 March 2007
2007–08YoungHeart Manawatu 0 – 8 Team Wellington6 January 2008
2007–08Canterbury United 1 – 9 Waitakere United20 January 2008
2011–12Canterbury United 9 – 1 YoungHeart Manawatu22 January 2012
2012–13Waikato 1 – 9 Waitakere United20 January 2013
2005–06YoungHeart Manawatu 8 – 1 Hawke's Bay United18 February 2006
2006–07Team Wellington 7 – 0 Hawke's Bay United26 January 2007
2011–12Canterbury United 7 – 0 Hawke's Bay United4 February 2012
Highest scoring matches
Season Home team Result Away team Date
2005–06Team Wellington 4 – 6 Auckland City7 January 2006
2007–08Canterbury United 1 – 9 Waitakere United20 January 2008
2011–12Canterbury United 9 – 1 YoungHeart Manawatu22 January 2012
2012–13Waikato 1 – 9 Waitakere United20 January 2013
2012–13Waitakere United 6 – 4 Hawke's Bay United9 March 2013
2013–14Southern United 0 – 10 Auckland City16 February 2013
2005–06YoungHeart Manawatu 8 – 1 Hawke's Bay United18 February 2006
2007–08Waikato 4 – 5 YoungHeart Manawatu30 March 2008
2011–12YoungHeart Manawatu 2 – 7 Waitakere United15 January 2012

OFC Champions League

The OFC Champions League, also known as the O-League, is the premier football competition in Oceania. It is organized by the OFC, Oceania's football governing body. It has been organized since 2007 under the current format, following its successor, the Oceania Club Championship. Two teams from the ISPS Handa Premiership participate annually. Four O-League titles have been won by teams from New Zealand.

ASB Charity Cup

The ASB Charity Cup was introduced in 2011 as a season opener played the weekend before the first matches of the ASB Premiership season.[25] The fixture pits the ASB Premiership Grand Final winner against the best performing New Zealand team in the OFC Champions League.[25] However, when the same team fills both categories as Auckland City did in 2014 and 2015 the ASB Premiership runner-up qualifies for Charity Cup.[26]

Year Winner Score Runner-up
2011 Auckland City 3–2 Waitakere United
2012 Waitakere United 2–1 Auckland City
2013 Auckland City 4–1 Waitakere United
2014 Team Wellington 2 – 2

(4 – 3 PSO)

Auckland City
2015 Auckland City 3–0 Team Wellington
2016 Auckland City 3–1 Team Wellington
2017 Team Wellington 3–1 Auckland City FC
2018 Auckland City 4-3 Team Wellington
ASB Phoenix Challenge

The 2010–11 season saw the introduction of the ASB Challenge Series. This was an individual friendly competition in which the eight Premiership teams competed against a reserve team attached to Wellington Phoenix, a New Zealand-based team playing in the Australian A-League. The ASB Phoenix Challenge was discontinued after the 2010–11 season but reinstated for 2012–2013, its last appearance.

White Ribbon Cup

The White Ribbon Cup, is a knockout cup competition run by New Zealand Football. The 2011–12 season will be the inaugural season of the NZF Cup.

It was established in 2011 to provide regular football for the six clubs not participating in the Oceania Champions League and runs in conjunction with the ISPS Handa Premiership regular season.[27]

Season Winner Score Runner-up
2011–12 Team Wellington 6–1 Waikato FC

National Youth League

New Zealand Football additionally runs the National Youth League, a competition for the youth teams for each of the ten clubs in the New Zealand Football Championship. It is held between October and December, and consists of each team playing each other once; the fixture list mirrors that of the senior league. The team with the most points at the end of the season become the champions. The current champions are the youth team of Auckland City, defeating the youth team of Tasman United on the final day to claim their fifth title since the competition's inception in 2007.[28]


See also


  1. "REGULATION 10: NATIONAL LEAGUE" (PDF). Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  2. "Black year for New Zealand after All Whites loss". Access My Library. 29 December 2004. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  3. Brown, Michael (14 February 2005). "National service". Official Team Wellington Website. Herald on Sunday. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  5. "New soccer franchises revealed". TVNZ. 6 April 2004. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
  6. "Five chase NZFC licence vacancy". Sports Web. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011.
  7. "NZF signs its biggest sponsorship deal". 2 September 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  8. "Manawatu dumped from ASB Premiership". TVNZ. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  9. Holloway, Bruce (18 November 2013). "Making sense of the Wanderers SC name". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  10. "Expanded ASB Premiership confirmed". The New Zealand Herald. 22 August 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  11. "Team Wellington claim title". Stuff. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  12. "New trio to join ASB Premiership". New Zealand Football. 16 December 2015. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  13. "Lift off for Stirling Sports Premiership". New Zealand Football. 26 September 2016.
  14. "ISPS Handa Premiership announced". New Zealand Football. 27 March 2017.
  15. Voerman, Andrew (30 May 2017). "Hamilton Wanderers name Ricki Herbert as their new national league coach".
  16. "Brett Angell appointed Head Coach of Hawke's Bay". Hawke's Bay United Football. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  17. "O'Reilly takes charge of Southern". New Zealand Football. 21 June 2016.
  18. France, Marvin (3 December 2015). "Chris Milicich back at Waitakere United and determined to salvage their season".
  19. "ASB Premiership Team of the Decade Competition". New Zealand Football. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  20. "Jordan named ASB Premiership Player of the Decade". 18 March 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  21. "Panel picks ASB Premiership Goalkeeper of the Decade". New Zealand Football. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  22. "Panel picks ASB Premiership Defender of the Decade". New Zealand Football. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  23. "Panel picks ASB Premiership Midfielder of the Decade". New Zealand Football. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  24. "Panel picks ASB Premiership Striker of the Decade". New Zealand Football. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  25. "Charity Cup clash for Auckland rivals". 12 October 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  26. "Grand Finalists meet in ASB Charity Cup". New Zealand Football. 18 October 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  27. Hallett, David (30 November 2011). "Canterbury United's Kamo unlikely for first round". The Press. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
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